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Telomerase regulation during entry into the cell cycle in normal human T cells.

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    Telomerase activity is involved in telomere length maintenance. Leukocytes, unlike many human somatic tissues, have detectable telomerase activity. These cells provide a normal human cell type in which to study telomerase. We studied the regulation of telomerase activity and the telomerase RNA component as leukocytes were stimulated to enter the cell cycle. In primary human leukocytes stimulated with phytohemagglutinin, telomerase activity increased > 10-fold as naturally quiescent cells entered the cell cycle. Antibodies to the T cell receptor (TCR)/CD3 complex and the costimulatory CD28 receptor induced telomerase activity in a T cell-enriched population of cells. Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant that blocks TCR/CD3 signal transduction pathways and cdk2 activation, blocked telomerase induction. Hydroxyurea, an inhibitor of S phase, did not block cdk2 kinase activity or telomerase activation. In summary, telomerase is regulated in G1 phase as normal human T cells enter the cell cycle.